The First Domino to Fall: My Reaction to the Group’s Inaugural Baby
Pregnancy announcements are dropping from the sky like locusts, and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to polish up the perfect response: a little combo of squealing, hand-grabbing, OMG’s, and detailed questions about morning sickness. In fact, I’m starting to sound downright genuine in my congratulations. But let’s be honest: I had nowhere to go but up after my atrocious behavior at the first announcement of a baby in our friend group.
Life Before Babies
There’s a beautiful hotel on the beach in Santa Monica called Shutters, where we were all summoned a few years ago for a birthday breakfast for our friend Emily. I should have known something was up right then and there, since most of our birthday celebrations took place in bars where you have difficulty peeling your flip-flops from the sludge on the floor. But I didn’t. I threw on a beachy dress and we sat at a long table in a sunny room and almost felt like grown-ups.
Maybe it was the entire pitcher of mimosas I’d consumed, but by the end of our meal, I was feeling particularly sappy about how lucky I was to have this group of friends. I’d moved to California a few years earlier not knowing a soul, and after a false start in Orange County, I met Drew (now MISTER Maybe), settled in Santa Monica, and joined a kickball team that gave me the most enthusiastic and active group of friends I’d ever had. We barcycled with themed outfits. We rented a huge cabin and skied in Big Bear every year. We karaoke’d with abandon, devised elaborate scavenger hunts across Venice, agreed to drive to Vegas if someone drew the Ace of Spades from a deck of cards. ‘Twas a decadent time in our lives.
Just as I was draining another mimosa and wishing things could stay like this forever, Emily’s husband Nick cleared his throat, and with all the forewarning of an atom bomb, announced he was going to be a father.
Much like the moments after a car accident, I’m not sure what happened next. I may have laughed, thinking it was a joke. I may have said Oh my God (or more likely, WTF?!). I may have pulled myself and my manners together enough to say Congratulations, but I doubt it. If it had been a movie, I would have dropped my champagne flute and shattered it into a million little pieces. Babies?! It didn’t even make sense – we were babies ourselves.
Ah, but we weren’t. We were climbing further towards our late twenties and most of the people I’d graduated high school with had already popped out one or two kids. But we were untouchable out here! That’s why we all moved away (no one’s actually from California), to escape that engaged-by-22, married-by-23, kids-by-25 thing. But we weren’t 25 anymore – we were old enough, even by California standards, to start having babies.
Life After the First Group Baby
We disbanded shortly thereafter and I walked out of Shutters feeling lightheaded (ever the dramatist). I sat in the car and passed through a few of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief on the way home – starting with mumbling I just can’t believe it so many times that Drew had to tell me to pull myself together. I couldn’t. I was overcome with the realization that people were moving on, that this idyllic life I thought would last forever was merely a stopping point for most people. A brief – though cherished – period in their lives before they moved on to the real stuff.
I had the apocalyptic sense that this was just the beginning. Friends would start dropping like flies. Conversations – if we still had them – would revolve around defecation schedules, distastes for various strained vegetables. Weekends would consist of a rotation of excuses not to join us in whatever we were doing – flaky babysitters, kids with the croup, mother-in-laws perpetually in town.
Nothing would ever be the same again.
And you know what? It wasn’t. I look back on the photo below, taken outside Shutters when we went back again the next year for Emily’s birthday (baby Liam in tow), and think of how those friendships have changed. Nick and Emily moved back to Texas to be close to the kids’ grandparents and buy a house with a yard that couldn’t be confused with one hole of a putt-putt course. Though no one else in the photo has a kid yet, we’ve completely drifted apart for other reasons.
So are Drew and I sitting home knitting on the weekends nowadays?
Nope. The group has shifted and evolved and new people are being added all the time – and while our barcycle stamina may not be what it was, we’re still out there trying. Our friendship with Nick and Emily has changed too, but for the better. They can’t just pop over on a Friday night for cards anymore, but that makes the rare weekends where we drop $400 on a plane ticket to see each other that much more special. They go out of their way to talk about normal, non-baby stuff when we’re together and it makes me realize how much they value our friendship and how important it is that we keep it intact as we’re potentially going to wind up going down very different roads in our lives.
The question of “Where will I find other Childfree friends?” is one that comes up pretty often in the Childfree community. It terrifies us to think about our social life five years from now if we’re the only ones not to have kids. But then I look back at old pictures and remember how I thought two things that time in my life:
- I’ll be friends with these people for the rest of my life.
- It’s impossible for me to be any happier than I am right now.
But I am. Just when I think it’s as good as it’s going to get, each year somehow keeps getting better. People I thought would be in my life forever have vanished, but others that I never could have imagined meeting keep wandering into our lives. And if we decide not to have kids – well, I’m just going to have to believe that some Childfree wanderers will come our way as well.
If not? We’ll just have to find those people who had babies as teenagers. They’ll be out of the house soon, and I bet those parents will be ready to reclaim their youth.
P.S. – Emily, sorry this is four years late…CONGRATULATIONS!